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« Flawed Argument | Main | Doesn't Take Much To Outsmart A Journalist »

Missing Alms

Mark Steyn on censorship by litigation:

...why would the Cambridge University Press, one of the most respected publishers on the planet, absolve Khalid bin Mahfouz, his family, his businesses and his charities to a degree that neither (to pluck at random) the U.S., French, Albanian, Swiss and Pakistani governments would be prepared to do?

Because English libel law overwhelmingly favors the plaintiff. And like many other big-shot Saudis, Sheikh Mahfouz has become very adept at using foreign courts to silence American authors in effect, using distant jurisdictions to nullify the First Amendment. He may be a wronged man, but his use of what the British call "libel chill" is designed not to vindicate his good name but to shut down the discussion, which is why Cambridge University Press made no serious attempt to mount a defense. He's one of the richest men on the planet, and they're an academic publisher with very small profit margins. But, even if you've got a bestseller, your pockets are unlikely to be deep enough: "House Of Saud, House Of Bush" did boffo biz with the anti-Bush crowd in America, but there's no British edition because Sheikh Mahfouz had indicated he was prepared to spend what it takes to challenge it in court, and Random House decided it wasn't worth it.

We've gotten used to one-way multiculturalism: The world accepts that you can't open an Episcopal or Congregational church in Jeddah or Riyadh, but every week the Saudis can open radical mosques and madrassahs and pro-Saudi think-tanks in London and Toronto and Dearborn, Mich., and Falls Church, Va. And their global reach extends a little further day by day, inch by inch, in the lengthening shadows, as the lights go out one by one around the world.

Posted by Rand Simberg at August 05, 2007 09:03 AM
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Truth as a defense to libel/slander lawsuits is one of many arenas in which the American version of the Anglo-sphere is superior to the English version.

1776 had something to do with that.

Posted by Bill White at August 5, 2007 09:31 AM

Rand, your last paragraph is on the money. One way to stop the advance of the Dark is light, and a lot of it. Instant sunshine, in fact.

Posted by Fletcher Christian at August 5, 2007 04:48 PM

We've gotten used to one-way multiculturalism: The world accepts that you can't open an Episcopal or Congregational church in Jeddah or Riyadh, but every week the Saudis can open radical mosques and madrassahs and pro-Saudi think-tanks in London and Toronto and Dearborn, Mich., and Falls Church, Va. And their global reach extends a little further day by day, inch by inch, in the lengthening shadows, as the lights go out one by one around the world.

Just like with the so-called Fairness Doctrine, the old Soviet adage applies: "What's mine is mine. What's yours is negotiable."

They have theirs. They want ours. What, if anything, can we do about it?

Posted by Larry J at August 6, 2007 07:01 AM

>>They have theirs. They want ours. What, if anything, can we do about it?

Not give it to them. If sufficiently pressed, kill them.


Posted by Andrew Ward at August 6, 2007 09:55 AM

Oh, I dunno. Much as I like Mark Steyn, I think he overstates his case here a bit. This isn't at all the same thing as newspapers chickening out over whether to publish the Danish "Muhammed" cartoons, for fear of wild-eyed Islamic youth rampaging through the press-room tossing grenades. It's not a case of asymmetric warfare a/k/a terrorism.

It seems much simpler than that. It's about a very rich man who doesn't like what's said and implied in a book, and who exerts pressure in a land known for its liberal libel laws to convince the weak-kneed academic publisher to quietly fold up their tent and go away. That fact that it's a rich Saudi man seems a smidge irrelevant -- the same story could probably be told about wealthy Russian oil mobsters -- oops, I mean oil tycoons -- or Greek shipping magnates, or fabulously rich coke-snorting rock stars, at one time or other. This is why academic publishers in England don't publish exposes on the rich 'n' famous. It was a bit odd of them to do it in the first place.

It's also bullshit about "nullifying" the First Amendment. In the first place, there is no First Amendment in England, which is why English libel laws are so pussified. In the second, this can't be interpreted as an attempt to silence American authors, inasmuch as it only applies to English publishers. It can't happen to an American publisher because of said First Amendment. If the American writer can't get an American publisher, it's not because Random House is afraid of what happened to Cambridge University Press, it's because no American publisher thinks the book will sell well in the US. And the First Amendment doesn't guarantee you the right to be published if there's no market for your book.

Steyn could try making the case that there's some evil CAIR conspiracy preventing the publishing of an expose on bogus Saudi charities in the US, but it would be a tough. I think it's much more probable that Americans just don't give a fig about shady Saudi charities, any more than they care about fanatical Pakistani madrassas. It's all just loony Mr. Magoo madness in an incomprehensible language, like Bollywood soaps, not nearly as interesting as whether Barry Bonds took 'roids or not.

Maybe Americans should be more interested in shady Saudi charities and fanatical Pakistani madrassas, but that's a different case, one Steyn has yet to make. (And good luck with that; Americans weren't much interested in fascism until Pearl Harbor, or in communism until Stalin set off his own H-bomb. It's our nature, for better or worse, to be staring vacantly out the side window instead of peering intently ahead as we barrel on down history's highway.)

Posted by Carl Pham at August 6, 2007 02:18 PM

I see that Fletcher is having his regular wet dream.

Posted by Toast_n_Tea at August 6, 2007 04:47 PM

"I see that Fletcher is having his regular wet dream."

As is Mr. Ward.

I happen to think that Islam in many particulars resembles the Terminator:

"Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."

Or, in this case, assimilated or enslaved. Their religion, according to their most unholy book, requires it - and any Moslem who denies this is merely following another instruction from the Koran; taqqiya.

Sooner or later, either they are going to win, by outbreeding civilised humans and by propaganda, and spread the cloak of Dark Ages barbarism over the whole Earth (which would eventually finish humanity as a species) or before that there is going to be a reckoning and a fight to the finish - which they would lose.

Possibly unlike Mr. Toast_n_Tea, I would prefer not to have to have several million Westerners, quite likely Americans, die first to make those who are left feel better about what needs to be done.

Posted by Fletcher Christian at August 7, 2007 05:49 PM


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